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Je t'aime, je t'aime

Laboratory rat in the cage of love
Resnais is haunted by time and memory(viz:- Hiroshima Mon Amour,Muriel, Last Year in Marienbad). Je t'aime, je t'aime, is his attempt to revisit a man's memory of his past love who committed suicide, through a sci-fi framework. A group of researchers have built a time machine and have sent as mouse back in time for 1 minute. However they need a human subject, one who having survived suicide, has nothing to lose. He wants to return to a time when he was at his happiest with his beloved, Catrine. Claude ( Claude Rich) becomes hopelessly lost and unstuck in time, as the machine jumps from one memory to another, in the process something goes wrong, and the patient's memories become fragmented, uncoiling in bits and pieces, out of order, sometimes looping back again and again. In the process, we see relationship come together and fall apart, and the tragic nature of what we're watching isn't clear until the final moments. The question is, did Resnais film the memories in the same random order that the novelist, Jacques Sternberg, wrote them? Moment to moment, we're unclear of what we're seeing even when it seems so simple, so plain. As the narrative continues to spin around like a zoetrope, a visit to the beach or a quiet conversation in bed acquires new meanings as the film progresses. It's as much a love story, or a science-fiction story, as it is a story about storytelling itself, and continues on themes which Resnais has treated before. The surreality of each image and scene, lies like shattered glass. We're left to put the pieces back together, tracing the rapturous highs and turbulent lows of his relationship with his girlfriend Catrine (Olga Georges-Picot). Ridder is trapped in an isolated world of his own fractured, infinitely repeating memories.

Resnais captures the seemingly mundane rituals of everyday life-dead time- that define the essence of human existence. Ridder's unremarkable life is presented in terse and abstract episodes that, although also eschewing narrative, inherently illustrate a complexity of form, experience, tactility, and emotional realism. In the end, it is the film's organic ability to convey depth and texturality that elicits pathos and humanity for the deeply flawed, alienated, modern day tragic hero imprisoned by the eternal torment of his inescapable, haunted memories.This is a remarkable film-a link between Marker's La Jetée and Gondry's The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-which doesn't quite come off, as you can't quite pin-point the moment the lover's drifted apart. A cubist structure is built up from a man's life cut in pieces. It's compelling technically, not emotionally: Claude is a neurotic daydreamer, and can't effect any changes, washed on the tides of fractured memory like a jellyfish.Like the haunting image of the mouse at the end the self is trapped in a glass cage, gasping for air. An astringent artistry is at play behind it all.

Out 1, noli me tangere

Quixotic ramblings of the Rivettean muse
Shooting in 16 mm in the late 60s-the norm in the TV industry-was an attempt to take film closer to the Real, which Rivette and Godard were doing. In L'amour fou(1969) Rivette 16 mm represents the footage shot by a TV crew documenting the rehearsal process where a group of actors rehearse Shakespeare's Pericles. In Out1 the 16 mm format was not a tool designed to document the work of the actors, but was dictated by the mode of production of the film, commissioned in serial form by French state TV, but when the executives saw the 8-episode, 743 minutes of the finished product, they rejected it. Rivette edited a 255 minute version of the film, Out 1 :Spectre, which had a modest commercial run. The original version, Out 1 : Noli me tang ere became almost invisible, apart from a screening in Le Havre in 1971. Rivette used theatre rehearsals as a structuring device, as in his breakthrough film Paris nous appartient ( 1961)-as much a paranoid portrait of Paris in its time as Out1 had been 10 years later.But he became embarrassed by conventional scripting and made the more free form,unscripted L'amour fou, this opened up his work to improvisation and greater length,with a bare bones scenario.Rivette shot Out 1 after the collapse of the social uprising of May 1968,when a series of strikes by Parisian student unions resulted in a full blown confrontation with the military. The radical hope to change a conservative society ended meekly with De Gaulle's party consolidating power. Out 1 taps into this post-'68 amalgam of malaise, disillusionment and distrust in grand social movements.

Paris is turned into disconnected individual groups hermetically sealed off from each other. In Out 1 he wrote an outline blueprint to get funding, but allowed the actors their heads in having them improvise after having chosen their characters themselves.There are two theatre groups rehearsing two Greek plays, 7 Against Thebes and Prometheus Bound, which provide a backbone- a defiance against authority- around which the other diffracted narratives gravitate. One troupe headed by Thomas(Michael Lonsdale) who leads his group through a series of psychosomatic exercises(breathing, improvising,touching,exploring, free-associating about different versions of the text), the other headed by Lili( Michele Moretti) more interested in forms of choral practise and dance, both attempting to recreate the unselfconscious play of children. We later understand they formerly lived together but split up due to differences of method.Thomas appears in the course of the film as both mastermind and victim of his "alternate lifestyle", alternating between several women, dressing down in slacks, T-shirts and Afghan jackets as a bohemian,yet associating with friends from the upper crust( businessmen,lawyers etc.) with whom he may be involved in another game-the hidden plot inspired by Balzac's Histoire des Trieze in which 13 individuals form a secret society to achieve power. Yet he has a spectacular breakdown late in the film,when internal strife within the group forces him to give up the production of Prometheus,when he seeks shelter in a sea-side house owned by a group of friends. He lies in the sand crying and laughing, giving an uninhibited improvised performance. Something of "the Real" is captured in the most artificial sequences of all-rehearsals in enclosed space, where through improvisation the actors are asked to enact their fantasies. The rehearsal scenes are filmed in extremely long shots, capturing facial expressions,drops of sweat, body movements of the actors.

For Rivette, narrative cinema is a documentary on the actors. These groups are bonded by ideals of communal togetherness. Intersecting with the lives of the theatre groups and their elusive "13 friends"( do they exist or not or are they vaguer groupings?) are two perfect outsiders existing in the margins, Colin( Jean-Pierre Leaud) and Frederique( Juliet Berto). Colin panhandles in cafés pretending to be a deaf mute, Frederique uses cons to obtain or steal money( or valuable letters) from men. If all the characters are lost these are adrift and loners. Colin is a detective of signs of the secret 13.This leads him to The Corner of Chance a boutique run by Pauline(Bulle Ogier) with whom he falls madly in love. But she has another life and maybe a member of the 13 with a different name, has children, lives in a big house with a nanny and a mysterious husband she never sees. There are class differences. There are moments of high comedy in the pranks and pratfalls of these grifters. Frederique bumps into Renaud, an outsider who stole a lottery win from Lili's group after pretending to be one of them,leading to its dissolution, and they get together briefly and tragically.The two outsiders attempts to get to know the nature of the conspiracy ultimately fail. The Balzacian plot was a MacGuffin, a child's fantasy, a game in which to get caught up. The conspiracy they're all involved in may be their own creation, their projection of an oppressive regime that's all powerful and all knowing, maybe it's all them, they're looking for something to battle against. This is a total immersion in an experience. What you'll certainly take away from this film is the idea of the long take lasting 13 minutes, amazing live street sequences, graffiti and posters, the bohemian modes of dress, a memoir of a time when politics was mainly about philosophy, the way myths are used to understand reality, and the Noli me tang ere theme, the elusiveness of the Real, you get so sucked into this Promethean vat of inspiration and all its characters that perfectly captures a time and place forever. Like Proust's A La Recherche we dip into the sensibility and hang the sense. Rivette lives .This led on to Celine and Julie go boating.


In the name of Love
Celine is a young novitiate nun who is sent out of the nunnery by her Mother Superior because she is too full of self-love, is too extremist, mistakes abstinence for martyrdom, she needs to test her faith in the real world. Everything she goes through is an attempt to get closer to God. Her novitiate name is Hadewijch, after the 13th century mystic. She's seen at home in the Ile Saint Loue, in a lavish dwelling in modern day Paris with her dog, lounging about or strolling through the corridors and rooms of her affluent parent's, her father a minister, her mother detached, Celine seems alienated. She meets Yassine, a young street thief from the projects, who takes her to a punk concert and realizes she's not interested in sex with him. She pledges herself to Christ and has the mystic's desire to draw closer to His body. Yassine thinks(rightly?)she's nuts, being the only normal person(and very funny)in the story. When she puts her head on his shoulder, he asks does she want love? Dumont does not explore her character: how she became so religious, the roots of her antagonism with her father.Celine is infatuated with God.

She attends a church where Bach is being played by a quartet and is uplifted by it. Sokolowski's face filled with an inner radiance.Yassine breaks the law, steals a motor-bike and goes through red lights with Celine on the back. He introduces her to his older brother Nassir, who is a devout Muslim, and gives talks in the back of a kebab shop about Islamic belief. He can't understand why she suffers for the 'love' of God, she 'must act if you have faith...continue the creator's work'. He says 'innocence' doesn't exist in a democracy, where people vote but take no responsibility. God is a 'sword for truth and justice'. He takes her to an Arabic country to see the humiliation inflicted. She meets a group of terrorists. She declares herself 'with' Nassir, saying she's 'ready' to fight the cause as a way of getting closer to God. We are given to understand she plants a bomb in Paris. There is a street explosion, she travels below on a tube train with Nassir. We take it she was the 'chosen' one. Police go to the convent to ask her questions, but she escapes, pursued by the demons of self-doubt, in the absence of God.

Celine torments herself in her search for God. Julie Sokolowski embodies the ingenue otherworldliness and childlike candour of Celine, with a wan-faced pallor, a bodily awkwardness, suggesting her vulnerability. Her fear that she has paid too high a price, feeling no closer to God, for her actions. Dumont's camera is usually at head height and fairly close up, moving through landscapes in long shots. David, a shirtless Mason and convict on parole who has been working in the convent grounds, comes to play a major part in Celine's salvation as a form of embodied grace. In a world without God there is still the need for the sacred and the spiritual. Dumont shows various forms of fanaticism merging. God is in the humanity of our ordinary, modern world. Dumont takes us on a journey with Celine, the film as mystical act, a poem not to be interpreted at face value, with surrealistic ellipses and lacunae, reason breaking down, we take things on faith. Dumont makes us empathise with Celine. The ending is a problem, instead of signing off with an act of terrorism, Dumont brings in a miraculous climax, the coda a mystery of love, to send you out the door with too many questions in your head. Disturbing, haunting, cathartic.

Under the Skin

Feeling for the alien
In the film Under the Skin there is no story line or development of character(as in the book), the almost non-existent story must be created from what we see. Johansson plays a blank,humanoid void of personality, filling in (like us) the blanks of what she knows with what she sees. The stroke of genius was dropping an A-list star into the streets of Glasgow and her mixing with non actors using a Kiarostami-type -10 approach to filming in and from the white van, with all the sounds of the street filtering through. I wonder how much this film traded on Scarlet Johansson's celebrity glamour rather than her acting skills as she seems like a passive observer, almost mute, apart from a few encounters with stranger pick-ups on the streets, where the recognisable husky voice and seductive tone reels another unsuspecting victim into her lair. There are some brilliant,stunning visual effects, making the film realise the the alien presence with the eye image from the spherical globe, to the birth of her human identity in the all-white space, where she dons the victim's clothes and identity. The heroine knows how to drive a car and turn a sentence, and the use of red lip-stick as she kerb crawls.

The chipper lad, the cocksure charmer, the deformed lonely hearts are all lured in by this femme fa tale, siren of film noir luring them( friendless) into the cavern of blackness of her squat. The victims wade into a black intergalactic gloo as she walks on enticingly above. A mystery biker speeding the Scottish highways seems to aid and abet her, or monitor and supervise her. Is he her controller or is he her drone? All is accompanied by Mica Levi's eerie ominous drums and strings soundtrack. We don't know who she is, she doesn't even have a name. She has a mission, some of which she may not know herself. She even kills one victim with a rock when he's washed up on a beach trying to save two people in the sea. I'm not sure how much we are supposed to project onto her opaque performance glimmerings of consciousness, e. G. when she picks up a man at night suffering from facial disfigurement, whose loneliness and longing appear to affect her and she lets him live, then after she takes off for the Scottish highlands, her growing human awareness and vulnerability allows her to experience briefly a relationship and sex which shocks her. She is seen to explore her naked body, to wonder about its effects in a mirror. The ending is both matter-of-fact and tragic.

Glazer made it clear on this project of 9 years, he didn't want to make the novel, but make a film on what it means to feel human. The clever ploy is using the alien gaze to show us our own alienness back to us. How alien we would seem to an alien as how strange an alien would be to us in any encounter. He's on slippery ground. We cannot gainsay the beauty of non-verbal images, but this has no substance without a narrative thread. As a former director of music videos and TV commercials there is a slickness, he creates atmosphere and mood, but lacking dialogue or narrative, what does happen has a certain repetition and tedium, blankness and incomprehension, emptied as the story is of its intellectual content and relevant details. Still its Johansson's best yet. A very anti- Scarlett performance where she takes risks.

The Martian

Great Scott !
Ridley Scott has returned to form with The Martian due to sticking to the nuts-and-bolts of the story rather than some way-out SF-based theme(as in Prometheus). This is concerned with a space mission to Mars the red planet with a crew who are forced to leave an astronaut(MarkWatney) behind , thinking he's dead, when a dust storm blows up. Think of an Apollo 13 scenario where the astronaut played by Matt Damon has to survive until he is rescued in a very risky return by the retreating space vehicle which has to use the earth as a sling-shot device and pick him up in Martian orbit.

Scott has an ease of manner at dwelling on these space subjects. He's also learned from other films, like Silent Running and Cast Away and Saving Private Ryan. With the Mariner probes we face post-fantasy Mars, where science fact squeezed out science fiction, where a real Mars took over. There are no Martians and the only life on Mars is likely to be more like microbes. Matt Damon plays a plucky individual who "does the math" to estimate how long he can spin out his resources, oxygen, water, potatoes which he grows utilizing his own faeces as compost. He establishes a communication link and keeps a video blog .

Meanwhile back at NASA they are all thrilled he's still alive and calculate how many sols he's got before he dies. How soon can they send up another rocket to rescue him?…Meanwhile in space we tune into the crew aboard the rocket, who when they discover he's alive have to debate pros/cons of returning to Mars or heading home to Earth. Watney can play Lieutenant Lewis's ( Jessica Chastain) awful 70s pop disco collection. Damon shows ingenuity, guts and chipper humour after his buddies have left him for dead. Classy space procedural getting the science mostly right from the Master Ridley.

Science fact and pseudo-science are the new sci-fi. We are not a million miles away from making this leap of faith to go to Mars and so I found the film plausible. We are like the cave painters projecting what we are going to do in the future. Matt Damon and Scott are the cherry on the cake. A mix of Cast Away and Apollo 13: survival is all. There are fictional parts like the dust storm and the flight back and retrieval. A beautiful use of Jordanian landscapes to simulate the Martian terrain and a feeling for a few local difficulties. No inner angst, but the heady optimism of simply pushing forward for survival. Based on Andy Weir's novel.


Physical presence over spiritual drama
Justin Kurtzel, the Australian director of Snowtown, tries to predetermine the Macbeths' unassuagable grief for a dead child becoming vaulting ambition, with them burying a dead child at the solemn start of the film, without embedding this in the drama. Macbeth goes onto burn later on McDuff's children and wife with his own hands. Fassbender and Cotillard are stars with charisma on screen,there are many close ups of their sexual chemistry.The Scottish landscape is a key player in this moody drama, one of harsh exteriors,foggy,cold,bleak,dank, containing the shimmer of violence. This approach is very much an invention, cutting the text to 25%.

Macbeth and Banquo encounter 3 witches after putting down the uprising against Duncan (Thewlis),who predict that Macbeth will become King. The Macbeths decide to murder Duncan. Cotillard's Lady Macbeth is played with reigned-in delicacy, invoking spirits before candle-lit pictures, she seems to be withdrawn., sidelined. The battle scenes are like a slowed-down slaughterhouse ( a nod to Welles's Chimes at Midnight?) with hack-and-slash, interspersed with a roaring tumult. The supernatural elements are down-played, so the witches are very real, appearing out of the mist or as quiet observers at a funeral or appearing at moments of crisis; similarly the spectral dagger is held by the dead boy from the battlefield, who is swallowed by the smoke. Banquo's ghost is a living presence at the banquet among the guests.

Kurtzel gets the Scottish-accented cast to mutter rather than declaim, he wants the verse to arise out of the context it is in. But what is apparent is that the meaning of the verse is lost in the fog of the film, whose visuals are superb:the camera sways, as if blown by the wind in an unstable world. If you are aware of the Welles's version or Polanki's, you will feel sorely let down. Usually verse taps into the inner lives of the characters, as it maintains the thrilling momentum, but here you get Fassbender reaching for the gestures of sociopathy, giggling, brooding,grinning. Go with a good memory of the text or you will be confused what they are saying. That could send you to sleep. The give-away is "based on Shakespeare's Macbeth",gutted.No energy,no flow,charismatic style over substance, where were the words and poetry?

Amour fou

Rohmer meets Wes Anderson
This is not history of what happened between Kleist the dramatist and story writer and Henriette Vogel, a married society lady who sang and played music. For one, it's presented as a love pact, I don't think he loves her, but he wants to die with someone who loves him. She admires his story The Marquis of O- .The Marquise of O is a transposition of Kleist's teasing 19th century novella about a chaste young widow ( who had sworn faithfulness to her late husband) suffering a pregnancy which she insists can only be the result of an immaculate conception.She is violated in sleep by a man she loves. Kleist's crisis, which is not presented in the film(which details Vogel's POV), is that having read Kant, he found it impossible to believe in some sort of divine fate or other worldly forces at work in humanity.We didn't know how we ought to live,nor the purpose of existence,nor what we are intended for,reason does not give us comprehension, human beings can never truly understand one another.The keystone of people's lives had been removed. Forget all that, Heinrich loves death more than life and seeks a soul mate to form a double suicide pact with.

The movie centres on Henriette(Birte Schnoink), who seems a content wife and mother, obedient and submissive to her husband Frederich(Stephan Grossman), caring for their one daughter Pauline. With a maid Dorte she keeps house.Heinrich(Christian Friedel) is a visiting poet and friend,who attends the family's musical soirées.He informs her he's been rejected not in love but in his lover joining him in death.There is a stultifying quality to the furniture, wall paper, dead flowers, profusion of dogs ,paintings on the wall and the couple's separate beds. As in her film Lourdes,there is an oddness to the material and the awkward shooting of the scenes in static mode, people posed either full-on or sideways,each scene framed like a painting. The performances seem in a trance, a physical prison, from which Henriette can escape only through illness or death. Friedel portrays Kleist with an arch formality and stiffness, hunched over making his absurd requests. Hausner bleeds dry the language of romantic love,injecting humour. Henriette finds out too late her illness is not life-threatening. She agrees to a suicide pact when she thinks her disorder is incurable.

Hausner employs a deadpan humour as Frederich employs methods to investigate her illness like hypnosis, or there are interminable discussions about the new taxes and the dangers of democracy, to anchor it in its specific time(1811). Heinrich feels unsuited to bourgeois life. He also feels uncomfortable with Henriette's change of heart as she may be doing it for all the wrong reasons. Herr Vogel seems to assist the soul mates to be together more. The regimentation of their lives is captured by the rigid,tableaux-like cinematography, with pastel colouration. Henriette submits to a weasel of a man who wants her only as a sounding board to his own life- philosophy.The film succeeds as a farce set up with authentic period detail with references to the effects of the French Revolution, creeping under your skin like Heinrich does under Henriette's.The climatic death scene is blunt,sad and horrifying, but works.It leaves a shadow in your mind long after.


Unearthing history through film techniques
Pawlikowski's Ida is a sombre black and white film set in 60s Poland. Anna (AgataTrzebuchowska) is asked by the prioress of the orphanage convent where she is about to take her vows as a novice nun,to visit her unknown aunt Wanda in Lodz before she takes them . She has been raised in the Catholic convent where she was abandoned as a baby.Wanda (Kulesza) is a former state prosecutor and Communist Party member, jaded,alcoholic, promiscuous. Wanda is unwilling to take Anna away from the orphanage, because she would not be able to provide her with a happy life,when it's really her selfishness and her loose morals,she cares more about.She's devastated by the loss of her sister.

It is revealed to Anna that she is Jewish,called Ida and her parents, the Lebensteins, were killed during WWII.The film is a road trip in which Anna seeks her true identity.Wanda and Anna travel through bleak Polish countryside to the village where her parents lived.A man called Skiba is living in her parent's old house,he pretends not to know the people who once lived there and says he doesn't know where his father Syzmon is,who hid his parents during the war.The cinematography of the scenes is painterly, balanced by the use of natural light.The history and weight of the past is shown by the way each character is reduced to the corner or bottom of a frame in the unusual 1.37:1 aspect ratio and static camera.Sometimes the subtitles get in the way.

Wanda wants Anna/Ida to know her own ethnic identity,and to not sacrifice her carnal identity,before she has experienced it.She has never explored secular life,she is institutionalised,she does not know how to behave in the outside world-although she is given a measure of respect as a nun-she's never questioned the convent's practises because they are all she has ever known.Is the "family" of the convent to be her spiritual home or will she find fulfilment through the reality of her family's suffering? I get to feel she decides as a Christian what to do with her parents remains and what to do with the rest of her life, after briefly experiencing sexual love with a man,the saxophonist, who shows her a life she might live.

All the passion and energy is shown by Wanda,Kuleza's performance is riveting, plugging her emotional void with booze, sex, cigarettes and secular Communism.Her sharpness is good at unearthing latent anti-semitism.Anna is the axis around which the film turns, watchful, careful, marvelling at her aunt's repartee,when dealing with most of the people they meet as this odd couple. There is an attempt to create an existentialist new wave atmosphere in the jazz night club which seems a little unreal. Anna's final flight from Lodz recalls the end of The Third Man. My favourite black and white film since Inside Llewellyn Davis.

As Ida searches for her family's remains, she begins to question her decision to become a nun. As Wanda says, she has never explored secular life. That is why she laughs at the dinner table despite (presumably) never having done so before. She is no longer institutionalised. She has seen the world and needs to decide who she is on her own. Ultimately, she decides to be the religious, instead of the secular, person--but she does so on her own terms.


Successful attempt to realise a creation myth
God cannot be depicted in film as it would lead to a situation ripe for satire or sacrilege.It would be a mockery.The story of Noah in Genesis is based upon a Babylonian myth which is depicted in the Epic of Gilgamesh,an ancient tale of the deluge by which in early human history the gods sought to destroy mankind.There maybe a historical basis,but this is a fable about man's sinfulness making God seek to create a new man,who alone with his family survives the flood,but to do this all other human beings are destroyed.God's generosity makes a new start possible.On top of this there is always a lot of problems from religious groups about depictions of the Bible,depictions of God etc.Aronosky,a professed atheist,wants a more neutral term like Creator,because at that time there were no words for God,and the story can be viewed,like lots of stories in Genesis as mythological,pre-religious,parables, the nature of God,man and the universe.However,with our current concern for the ecology of the planet,global warming etc, the term 'Creator'(a projection of the past as well as the future) raises the idea of an invisible spirit behind creation.Aronosky didn't want to show a man hearing voices or in dialogue with God.Instead he creates a SF world that could also be the future with a race of rock-titans straight out of Lord of the Rings or Transformers.I think this art-house director is to be applauded for attempting to realise this story of a Bible legend,without falling flat on his face.

This Noah(Russell Crowe) has dreams of an almighty flood.Through this he is fore-warned to build a big boat,and in that he was to save himself,his wife,Naameh (Connelly),his children,Shem,Ham and Japeth,and the orphan Ila(Emma Watson) and pairs of all living animals and creatures.This is epic film-making based on an epic story.Crowe's presence is muscular,broody and tormented,a struggling survivor who is obedient to the Creator,though setting harsh limits on his kin.Crowe anchors the film's wilder elements,in a dark,nightmarish vision of the Old Testament.The 6-armed stone giants need a leap of faith to be accepted,rebel fallen angels, who've plummeted from the firmament into hot lava and come to assume crusty rocky exteriors of a Quasimodo-like form.They are needed to haul timber,assemble the ark and defend Noah's project against the armies of Tubal-Cain(Winstone),who killed Lamech, Noah's father.Methuselah,Noah's grandfather, is played rummly by Anthony Hopkins.As Ila is barren she can't have children,but Naameh asks Methuselah for help,and he transforms Ila into a young woman able to beget.Shem finds a partner in Ila,but Ham becomes resentful when Noah allows the girl he likes to be killed by a stampeding crowd.Tubal-Cain stows away on board,helped by the rebellious Ham. What is harder to believe is the way the multitude of animals allow themselves to be lulled asleep for the duration of the ark's voyage by incense.The gloomy interiors of the boat's hulking,pitched timbers suggest the visionary intensity of a creation myth.

Connelly is very effective as Noah's wife(having played well with him in A Beautiful Mind),and Emma Watson is superb as a woman fated to repopulate the earth,who has twins,but who has been told by Noah he has to slaughter those children to stop humanity rising again and destroying the earth.They both introduce more flexible elements to the stern patriarch of Noah.Aronosky has shown a Noah-like belief that making a movie is like building an ark,by reinventing biblical cinema for a digital age. Crowe as ever fulfils the promise he made with The Insider and Gladiator.

Ex Machina

Android who came to earth
Ex Machina is writer-director Alex Garland's debut film.Formerly a novelist turned screenwriter,now director. Garland has an evident fascination with AI.He's stripped away the 'Deus' from ex ma-china,now that science and computer intelligence are the predominant influences on our consciousness. There is a plausibility to the science involved,whereas the idea of divine intervention to resolve our problems has vastly receded,but even in ancient times it was implausible.This is a very smart, immaculate,beautifully surfaced film,with simple.sensuous interiors. The setting and the location(Artic/Norway) are beautiful.Costs have been kept down by reducing the drama to a trio of 3 main actors and turning a reflection on how like us a machine is or could become and turning it into a thriller.Both are centred on the mind;we are dealing with the problem of ourselves,the theory of mind, self-awareness,how what makes us different to animals and plants,can make us create android/machines like us with sentience and consciousness. A fear by Hawking that full AI could spell the end of the human race is not presented here.Indeed Garland is more hopeful about the development of conscious machines, seeing them as our robotic offspring.

Caleb Smith(Domnhall Gleeson),a young coder at search engine Bluebook is selected by the reclusive billionaire CEO Nathan Bateman to be flown by Helicopter to his mountain retreat in Alaska: his task to carry out the Turin Test on Nathan's latest AI android,Ava(Alicia Vikander).Due to our fetishisation of young women in their 20s,she is asked to carry the main themes of the film.What's happening to the protagonist is what's happening to the audience.Although Ava is clearly through CGI,more machine than human,Vikander's subtly sensuous performance makes her erotic appeal to Caleb(and us)clear to see.Nathan taunts Caleb over his growing attraction to Ava.Over 1 week Caleb has a number of sessions with Ava,talking to her each day with Nathan listening in.The conversations are interrupted by power cuts,which Ava claims to be causing,which supposedly cut off the microphones.During a break she tells Caleb he shouldn't trust Nathan.Does Ava actually like him or is she just pretending to?Who do you trust in this glassed-in complex with a view of a small,inaccessible garden? Nathan(brilliantly played by Isaac gone native) reminds Caleb, "consciousness cannot exist without intention",and Ava's intentions are inscrutable.The more she makes him talk about himself,the more we wonder who's agenda wins?

If you're someone who thinks something more is going on in intelligence than the Turin test implies(which is more about mimicry),then you'll not be convinced by Ava's ability to seduce Caleb(which is also about affection/emotion),you'll wonder about her callous disregard for him as she tries to escape. You'll also wonder how she has the knowledge to use language of humanity like "I learn nothing about you. That's not a foundation upon which friendships are based." How does she develop the rhythm of interaction of real people, to convince the outside world she is real?The AI of an android may lack empathy, how can you have artificial emotion/affection, though she may look beautiful and create a beautiful illusion of sexuality, she has no solidarity with either human being she encounters, she has her own agenda and she uses and exploits the humans she deceives. Consciousness has intentionality so that it's embodied and directed outwards. It's the heart which is the part that makes us right or wrong.Is the liberated woman(as Ava) merely heartless? The film is a chamber piece of sci-fi full of provocative ideas.Garland's 1st effort as director bodes well for the future.Brilliant writing as the tension mounts up, a suitable techno score to highlight.

Hors Satan

A gust inside the god.A wind.
This strange film is set on the northern French coast around Calais.A vagabond(David Dewaele)lives in the wilds of nature,with a small fire to keep him warm.His companion,a teenage dark-haired virginal goth(Alexandra Lematre), walks with him everywhere. They are both lost in a mirage of naturalism,supposedly beyond both good and evil,'hors Satan'. There is no back-story.The man gives to people what they want:to the young girl he is a protector,refusing to have sex with her and killing the guard who harasses her,he's also killed her step-father for abusing her at the start of the film.Police make enquiries about the murders. The goth lives with her mother.

To a hitch-hiker he brings sexual bliss,so she is frothing at the mouth. For the mother whose daughter is possessed he drives out the demons by raping the possessed young girl.He moves around his territory like a hunter-gatherer, but the territory is spiritual and he seems to commune with nature,kneeling,taking in the land and sky.He can knock at any door and get a bite to eat,as the people who live around here trust him.His young companion gets raped and dies and he mysteriously takes her body out into the landscape and lays it in a certain way and leaves it.The strange ritual is a form of resurrection.He is a holy fool or shaman,a phalli-centric worshipper of nature.

What do we make of Dumont's purpose here? He has taken the character who was marginal in his last film,Hadewijch, but was pivotal as the natural man in saving the central character from committing suicide, and he's made him the central character in this film,which has no music; you hear only the sounds of nature,breathing,walking,the wind, leaves, water and birds.The characters have no names.This is a new world of primitive,mythological fantasy.The objective lens pans the countryside, dunes,trees,marshes, hills,streams,capturing sunrise,magic-hour,the long shots are slow,panoramic, the dialogue minimal,impregnating us with the image like a Poussin or Constable painting.

The character can be seen as both evil and good,being one and the same thing.The characters are half-way between symbol and reality.Dumont is the atheist moving towards Bressonian subject matter(The Devil, Probably),bringing in religious themes. In this society we seem free of the ills of capitalism and modern technology,in marginal space,a magical zone,outside the normal rules that would apply in urban life in cities and towns.There is a serial killer rapist in the vicinity,who has a dog.When the police capture him,the natural wanderer takes his dog and walks on to his next location.This ends a trilogy of films made on spiritual themes. Absolutely astonishing.

Adieu au langage

New tricks from an old dog
On 1st viewing of Godard's Goodbye to Language,you have no narrative, just a man and a woman,later a dog.There is repetition: the use of a new technique,3D,without rules,to show how a child or animal sees the world,with the use of primary colours in spring or autumn,or colours drenched ,bleeding out of the object.He uses heavy inter-titles like 'Nature' or ' Metaphor'.Godard wants to go beyond language,while paying homage to words at the same time.He quotes lavishly many writers,poets, thinkers,philosophers,painters,and plays the work of different musicians, where the music plays then goes dead. Alternatively, the screen goes black while people are speaking or music is still playing. Godard wants to have no preconceptions,just see through his lens the world nakedly, reflecting the world through these new techniques.We wander in forests,look up at trees,see the beauty of flowers, roam with a dog by a lakeside or as it rolls in snow,or in urban settings focus on a chair in the foreground. Subject: the idea is simple: a married woman and a single man meet.They love,they argue,fists fly.A dog strays between town and country.The seasons pass.The man and woman meet again. The dog finds itself between them.The other is in one,the one is in the other and they are three.The former husband shatters everything.A 2nd film begins:the same as the 1st, and yet not.From the human race we pass to metaphor.This ends in barking and a baby's cries.

Freud and the art of film began at the start of the 20th century,they both in some ways are parallel developments, exploring reality, based on new techniques.Godard shows us perception and consciousness,how an animal's eyes are unclouded by consciousness. Godard shows human beings weighed down by interpretations,needing interpretation.He uses 3D film in this baffling experimental drama,turning the technology on its head(no car chases,nor animated dragons or objects hurling towards the screen) by using his 3rd dimension to send contrasting images to each of the viewer's eyes or-in one particular haunting sequence-to add spatial depth to the sight of a man sitting on a toilet,pooping.This is a kind of equality we all share. The idea that existence is about trying to reconcile the "real" world with the subjective experience of the world, and the names and notions we use to catalogue and define the world--but the digressions are what make it sing. "I will barely say a word," says a voice on the soundtrack--maybe Godard?--adding, "I am looking for poverty in language." While the film is drenched in the rich sensual experience of Godard's visual language.An interesting motif is images of running water,water lapping shores of a lake,sea water,a river in full spate,rain falling,even the water of a shower:the importance of water in the origin myths of heroes, and dreams linked to childbirth.

He quotes Monet as painting what he doesn't see.We as human spectators, look at the observable universe.To scientists,numbers and the laws of science are real,independent entities,but they are constructions of human thought attempting to seize something of the universe.There is no transcendent perspective,we are dreamers.We can only really see ourselves when we are looking into another person's eyes.The camera captures everything it sees-we passively like the camera comply-and yet not seeing anything. As though Godard is making the movie for the camera and for the sake of the film itself.There are no conventions of plot or character.One of the characters says she "hates character". Density,compression,digression,montage are utilised freely.Lettered Texts are printed on top of each other or over images.We get ideas tossed at us like Hitler's rise to power coincided with the invention of TV,or will Russia ever be a part of Europe,without ceasing to be Russia?That a new Godard film is an event,something that may better be seen in an art gallery:as distribution in the UK by Studiocanal has folded and it's been rushed to DVD.This is a shame as the full 3D experience can only be gained in a movie theatre. in Goodbye, Godard's use of 3D is a matter of using the screen (with its illusory extra dimension of depth) as a multimedia space in the true sense: he's creating both a painting and a sculpture.Obscure,maddening,obsessed with history and cinema.In a word: awesome!

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